We're continuing our profiles of all the teams we face, or indeed could face at this years Peace Cup with a little look at Dutch side FC Groningen.
We've already done Hamburg (read here) and we'll have Seongnam profiled tomorrow as we build up to the game against the Koreans.
Until then however we put the spotlight on one of Dutch football's newer names, who have established quite a reputation for bringing through some very talented players...
FC Groningen is one of Holland's more recent football clubs, which plays at the Euroborg - a ground that can hold a maximum capacity of 22,550. On the face of it, its stadium is a fair reflection of the size of club, as Groningen is yet to win a title or influence the Eredivisie due to the strength of more illustrious clubs, such as Ajax or PSV Eindhoven.
Recent History & Success
Since formed in 1971, Groningen has spent most of its life in the top tier of Dutch football, although it suffered relegation to the second division on one occasion. Its top-flight status was restored shortly, and the impact of the Koeman brothers - Erwin and the more famous Ronald - saw the Green-White Army march towards European football for the first time in its existence.
More recently, Groningen finished fifth in 2005/06 and 2010/11, rekindling its European desires, but key components of the latter side - goal scorer Tim Matavz and former Wigan man Andreas Granqvist - have since moved on.
Did you know that Dutch winger Arjen Robben began his career at Groningen? Because he did. That's about as interesting as it gets on that front sadly.
The Gaffer: Robert Maaskant
Maaskant's career as a coach has largely mirrored that of his playing career thus far - varied spells in Holland and abroad almost of journeyman descent. That ended when he guided NAC Breda to the play-offs for European qualification, and then narrowly missed out on the same achievement the following season.
Following that, he won his first and only title to date as manager of Polish club Wisla Krakow, but failed to qualify for the Champions' League group stage. A defeat to Cracovia the following season - Wisla's first away loss against their city rivals in 28 years - saw his contract terminated and he returned to management at Groningen upon the conclusion of the Eredivisie season.
Groningen has been built on youth in the past few seasons. Its current squad has only nine players aged 25 or over, and its scouting network has seen the club bring in talented youngsters such as David Texeria and Dusan Tadic, and Luis Suarez before them, from overseas. The club's focus on developing young players has brought them relative success on the field, the most recent fifth place finish, and in the transfer market - selling Matavz for a reported 8 million Euros and Tadic a year later for a similar fee. Texeria was reportedly a target for Liverpool last January, so Maaskant may see another talented attacking player leave before the season starts.
The departure of Matavz has left them somewhat short in attack; Texeria finished as the club's top scorer last season with eight. Behind him, lay Tadic, who has recently signed for FC Twente.
Focussing on who is at the club, however, Texeira is likely to the focal point of their attack in the Peace Cup. Serbian under-19 international Filip Kostic has arrived for the new season and former Southampton midfielder Tim Sparv is rebuilding his once high reputation at the Euroborg.
One To Watch: Suk Hyun-Jun
The South Korean's presence at Groningen is the reason for their invite, but he spent the majority of last season coming off the bench, with 15 sub appearances to just five starts.
Despite that, he managed five goals in his first season after signing from Ajax including a brace against PSV and his side's sixth at home to Feyenoord.
Having just turned 21, he is in a similar position to our very own Ji Dong-won. Although our man is ahead of him in the national team pecking order, the aforementioned departures at Groningen will provide him with an opportunity next season. Big things are expected of him as he continues to develop in Holland.
A Tough Test For Sunderland?
Having finished just above the relegation zone in Holland, some may have Groningen parred with Seongnam as the competitions weakest side. Yet the squad Sunderland is travelling with is very much a ‘skeleton' of what Martin O'Neill would hope to have at his disposal come the end of August, so writing them off could be costly.
Again, this is purely hypothetical, as we may not even face them, but given that our better players will not feature in the Peace Cup Groningen would provide a challenge - which is exactly what we need to kick off our preparations for the new season.